Table Talks: Chef Lee of Caribbean Silver Palate Supper Club

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Light, fresh, and island-inspired. Although these three words rolled off her tongue as an expression of her cuisine, they were also well-suited to describe the chef herself. Bright and early on a rainy Saturday morning, Chef Lee and I became quick friends, discussing her Vincentian roots, the heart of her cuisine and how she is a pioneer in Baltimore’s Vegan Caribbean Movement. Chef Lee’s vibrancy is not only evident in her beautiful and meticulously plated dishes, but also in the way she shares her love of cuisine with the world. 

Originally from Kingstown, St. Vincent, Chef Lee got an early start in the food industry shadowing her mother who is a chef and restauranteur. As such, her cooking is heavily influenced by the nostalgic fare of her upbringing.  After leaving home and making a move to the United States, Chef Lee admits she became addicted to the Food Network.She notes fondly, “Cooking in the United States felt more refined. As I familiarized myself with more ingredients, I wanted to try them out.”

“Cooking in the United States felt more refined…”

While visiting Caribbean marketplaces provided her with ingredients akin to her home island, Chef Lee began to branch out, exercising her creative muscle in the kitchen to make Caribbean fare with ingredients more popular here in the states. As cooking became a growing passion, Chef Lee eventually took the big leap and enrolled in Escoffier School of Culinary Arts to become a trained chef. During this period, Chef Lee expressed that these experiences did not only elevate her cooking technique, but also how she talks about and describes food as well as the ways in which it can be presented. This was just the beginning of her journey.

 Awe-inspired by how effortlessly she built her plates, I was initially drawn to Chef Lee through her Instagram gallery on @platedbyleshe. Of her strategies for plating, she has some standard rules: Your vessel (plate, bowl, slate) is everything. The size, shape and color of the vessel can takeaway or add to a dish.  Plate items in odd numbers to draw attention to the dish. Add some color and freshness to create emotion.

“Your vessel is everything.”

Last summer, Chef Lee ventured into a new space alongside her partner, Sherry, launching the Caribbean Silver Palate, a vegan Caribbean Supper Club that features innovative and refined takes on Caribbean cuisine. From intimate three course dinners to small snack buffets featuring Saltfish Fritters, Pumpkin Fritters, and Cheese Sandwiches, Chef Lee’s intent is for each event to be a one of a kind social experience. The Caribbean Silver Palate has a simple recipe, people connect over good food, and get exposed to a different side of Caribbean culture. Each event has grown in popularity, and she looks forward to her next event planned for later this year: Edible Oasis, a culinary tour of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

While being a vegan Caribbean chef may seem like a niche, she has been very successful , emphasizing that her personal style, and flavor profiles are what sets her apart. “Seeing how intrigued [my customers] are by the fact that vegan food could taste this good is always a rewarding experience.”

Constantly thinking outside of the box, like using jackfruit as a replacement for cod or creating or refreshing lemon pasta with vegan butter, Chef Lee has one simple tip for those looking to elevate their vegan cooking game or transition to a vegan lifestyle, “NEVER compromise on FLAVOR!” She explains further “Simply massaging your kale with lemon juice and olive oil, salt and pepper can add great flavor! Good flavor is the easiest way to transition to a vegan diet.”

“Good flavor is the easiest way to transition to a vegan diet…”

Chef Lee is very optimistic about the future, and she credits her mother’s success and encouragement as her inspiration to keep going. She admits “Sometimes it’s difficult being a vegan chef, and being new to the culinary industry, in a whole different country. Do I sit on with what everyone is doing, or do I just stick to what it is that I really want to do. Sometimes it’s like that.” It’s evident that staying true to herself has contributed greatly to her accomplishments, and will continue to drive her accomplishments in the future.

For more information on Chef Lee, and the Caribbean Silver Palette Supper Club, visit: leshestyle.com or her instagram account @platedbyleshe.

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Table Talks: Chef Tonia Renae

There is nothing like a meal prepared by the hands of someone who is passionate about their craft and confident in their approach. That's the essence of dining with Chef Tonia Renae, a professional personal chef and founder of Bless Supper Club. Perched at her counter, in a kitchen personally styled and renovated by her wife,  it felt like I was at home dining with an old friend. I was impressed by the personal and refreshing dining experience, and her effortless finesse as she maneuvered about her space.  As I admired her genius at work I got the opportunity to discuss her life, her aspirations and how food became her passion and art. 

Table Talk with Chef tonia Renae

WHAT SHE PREPARED

Pan-Seared Scallops with Asparagus and Purple Potatoes

TABLE TOPICS

HER STORY

Originally from Connecticut, Chef Tonia moved to Philadelphia nearly a decade ago. She playfully (yet candidly) admits her culinary journey stemmed from a necessity to "show off on a budget." Little did she know that learning how to make what some would consider more "high brow dishes" on modest means would ultimately ignite her life’s passion. Today, with over twenty years of experience, formal training in the culinary arts and an impressive resume in the food and hospitality industry, she has taken on the role of professional private chef, recipe developer and curator of phenomenal dining experiences through her brainchild Bless Supper Club.

 BLESS SUPPER CLUB & BEING A PRIVATE CHEF

In October of 2016 Chef Tonia created Bless Supper Club, a pop-up dinner series.  Partnering with her wife, Bless Supper Club centers on creating a unique and creative dining experience for foodies of all backgrounds. The supper club, which takes place in the comforts of their home, has allowed them both to nurture what they call a "creative movement" propelled by both of their passions. 

Being extremely introspective, Chef Tonia sees each supper club event as an opportunity to try something new and improve on the past. With this in mind, each event places an emphasis on fresh décor and a curated menu focused on the season or an event occurring during that time of year. Past themes have included a southern style brunch, and "Fat Tuesday." Another event is in the works for the near future, and she is sure it will be something different than what any attendee has experienced before.

Photos from @cheftoniarenae on Instagram

HER SPECIALTIES

As with many of us, nostalgia is the basis of Chef Tonia's favorite meal to prepare: Chicken and Dumplings. She is confident that hers is as good as your grandmother's and has a "Chicken and Dumplings Fan Club" to prove it! She recalls the first time she introduced her recipe to her wife, and how it was an instant hit with her friends and family. Now, there's a "Chicken and Dumplings" fan club ! While she enjoys experimenting with different types of cuisine,  she notes that seafood (of all types) is her "specialty of the moment." She also loves to infuse Caribbean spices and influences into her dishes. For my meal she prepared a simply but perfectly pan-seared scallops paired with asparagus and purple potatoes. Her technique was flawless, the flavors were impeccable, and it was all prepared within a blink of an eye. 

PHILLY FAVES

When it comes to dining locally, there is a top contender: South Restaurant and Jazz Parlor. She's attracted to the live jazz music and the delicious southern-inspired menu. She also vouches for their top-notch quality of service and cuisine. An honorable mention: Chili Garden, a recent favorite of hers and her family. Chili Garden located in University City, and boasts a menu of authentic Chinese and Asian cuisine. 

WHAT'S NEXT?

Excited by the open possibilities the future might present to her, Chef Tonia informs, very humbly, that she has seen her following on social media increase steadily. She says, with a smile,
"this means at least two or five people are paying attention." As her brand grows, she has been offered a number of opportunities to grow her business and venture into new spaces. More recently, this has led to her becoming a private chef for a local NFL player as well as being tapped to participate in food-related Philadelphia events. With these accolades under her belt, she is looking forward to attracting and working with new clients to offer more in-home private dining experiences and events. Although these desires are immediate, being the owner of a small restaurant is a long-standing dream she looks forward to actualizing in the future. 

For now, Chef Tonia is taking opportunities as they come to her, and continuing to focus on what she is most passionate about making great food for the people who appreciate it most.

Photos from www.cheftoniarenae.com

For more information on Chef Tonia Renae's services and Bless Supper Club, visit her website and follow her on social media:

Website: www.cheftoniarenae.com

Instagram: @cheftoniarenae

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Table Talks: E.M. Ricchini

Geo’s Table is committed to uplifting and supporting others as they bring to life their passions. Table Talks will be a regular feature that highlights a creative, entrepreneur or mover-and-shaker who is making an impact in the Philadelphia community (and beyond), with hopes of connecting them to others who can help push their vision forward.

ABOUT E.M. RICCHINI

Photo by   Danielle Conyers

Fashion and lifestyle blogger at larkandlace.com, freelance writer and on-air personality at MyNewPhilly.com, the lovely E.M. Ricchini is a born-and-raised Philly girl who is making a quite the unique and positive impression on the community.

When I met E.M. Ricchini at a recent tasting event, I was instantly drawn to her cool and coy demeanor and impeccable sense of style. Her natural knack for giving urban street style a flawlessly modern upgrade fueled me to strike up an initial conversation, which ended in an invite out for drinks a few weeks later.

As a creative E.M. has navigated the media world with curiosity ; first attending art school, and going on to work for heavy hitters like Fox 29 and Philly Voice. Through trials and tribulations, and with an eagerness for adventure, she’s continued to land on her feet.

All of which made for a very dynamic and fulfilling conversation.

Table Topics

The Setting:  Los Cantinas  Dos Segundos, 2nd Street  | Prickly Pear Margaritas (Virgin for her)

Topic 1: Iceland - The beauty of Iceland, and her privately chic (and epic) wedding ceremony on the shores of Reynisfjara.

Topic 2: Blogging Philosophy -  Her blogging philosophy is simple she likes her writing to “come naturally and treats [her] blog as a journal…”

Topic 3: The Vegan Life - Leading a straight edge and vegan life, E.M. is able to add veganistic flare to many classic dishes. One of her favorite dishes includes a recipe for black bean brownies that she promises are to die for (and I believe her!)  

Photos by Violet Short Danielle Conyers

What’s Next?

E.M. plans to continue evolving as a writer and is open to freelance opportunities. She is also in charge of brand management and creative direction for one of Philly’s hottest new startups, GoBabl.  The imprint she's made on the Philadelphia community is apparent, and as she continues sharing her art and thoughts with the world her following will surely continue to grow.

Both being avid supporters of Philly's ever expanding blogging community, this was a meeting of the minds that ended in great success! We ended with the promise of a collaboration that will grace our blogs soon!

CONNECT WITH E.M. RICCHINI

Instagram: @emricchini  | Blog: www.larkandlace.com